Community | SEWF Events

SEWF Youth Forum: The power of young voices – how young people are changing today’s world

by Kasia Kotlarska / March 2023

“Youths are born in the era of the Internet. Due to information proliferation, they are taught to think ‘why’ vs ‘what’ and ‘how’. This mindset is why our generation will lead the greatest community of researchers and innovators”. – Linh Do Ngoc Bao, ESG School (Vietnam). 

Download the Youth Forum Report here →

On 28 March 2023, hundreds of young people from around the world came together to attend the virtual SEWF Youth Forum. Designed with the assistance of the SEWF Youth Advisory Group and for young people interested in social entrepreneurship and sustainable development, the importance of encouraging and supporting as many young social entrepreneurs as possible cannot be overemphasised. As a moderator Gerlinde Schmidt (Euclid Network, Netherlands) said in one of the sessions, “youth-led solutions are key to making a social impact and changing the status quo”. Indeed the stories we heard during the Youth Forum truly proved this. Bright Uboh (Nigeria), Buyana Delphin Joseph (Congo/Uganda) and Harun Mwadena Muyesi (Kenya) were the three lucky winners who won free Digital Passes to SEWF23, for being the most engaged participants throughout the event.  

Over 750 young people from 80+ countries across the globe registered to participate in the virtual Youth Forum. Participants were excited to be part of this busy day, packed with several sessions and over 20 inspiring speakers. The SEWF Youth Forum continues to be a space for young inspiring changemakers to come together, learn from each other and exchange ideas. It is part of SEWF’s series of events for 2023 along with the Policy Forum (24 May) and our annual flagship event, SEWF23 (11-12 October). This year, the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF23) will be hosted in Amsterdam, the Netherlands from 11-12 October with SEWF23 Week running from 9-13 October for those planning on being in Amsterdam. Options for participation include in person, online and at Community Hubs around the world (locations coming soon!). 

Also read:  April's opportunities for global innovators and changemakers

 

An screenshot of all the speakers from the SEWF Youth Forum Fireside chat

SEWF23 themes:   

  • Ecosystems: Increasing opportunities for trade, collaboration and collective action  
  • Fairness: Ensuring equality and inclusion for all  
  • Migration: Entrepreneurial solutions for better lives  
  • New Economy: Putting people and planet first  
  • Planet: Living and trading within planetary boundaries  

 

Following the 2023 themes, young participants heard from a diverse range of speakers on topics including fireside chats on youth-led solutions for sustainable development and inclusive growth, deep dives into planetary boundaries, workshops on avoiding burnout, attracting capital and much more. Despite an incredible range and diversity in the programme, some truths resonated across all of them including:  

Don’t be afraid to start 

We heard a lot of words of empowerment. Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne from Growin’ Money (Sri Lanka) advised believing in ourselves. Namrita Ghani from Multi-Literacy Project (UK), Tobi Adegbite from Entojutu (Nigeria) and Beth Wambui Mwangi from MyWagePay (Kenya) spoke about finding and pursuing your passion. What became apparent was that to make it as a social entrepreneur, you need to be brave enough to take that first step.  

“The right time to do what you want to do was yesterday. So just get started on it and use the platforms that are available to make the most out of it”. – Azima Dhanjee, ConnectHear/SEWF (Pakistan)  

Planning is key 

Although it is good to listen to your heart and go where the passion takes you, every successful social entrepreneur needs a solid plan and set of rules. In the first fireside chat From marginalisation to empowerment: youth-led solutions for sustainable development and inclusive growth across Asia and Europe, Anoka Primrose Abeyrathne from Growin’ Money (Sri Lanka) and Laura Jardine Paterson and Souad Ali from CONCAT (Lebanon/UK) together with moderator Azima Dhanjee spoke about the importance of planning and research. In block 2 fireside, Joshua van den Hurk from Bamboovement (Netherlands) emphasised the importance of setting core values for your social enterprise in order to ease the difficulties of making future decisions.

Also read:  Rural Manifesto: A call for global collaboration 

Building resilience for the future 

One of the frequently mentioned challenges, which also became apparent in the 2021 youth forum feedback, was burnout. So, it’s no surprise that Greta Rossi’s (Changmakerxchange/Recipes for Wellbeing, Italy) Mindful entrepreneurship: cultivating resilience and avoiding burnout workshop was well received. Participants had the opportunity to learn practical skills, like mindfulness techniques to combat these issues, as well as gain access to resources to help them in their resilience paths. 

“We are living in a burnout epidemic and it’s on the rise because we have been ignoring the causes of it within our organisations” – said Greta at the beginning of the workshop. Her opinion was only further supported by the audience poll. 76% of participants identified unmanageable workload as a cause for burnout.  

 

A need for connection 

“The biggest issue I would say about being a refugee is the lack of either the opportunities or knowledge that these opportunities exist.” – Souad Ali, CONCAT(Lebanon/UK) 

What we heard about the most was the need for community. A good support network not only provides a way of finding help but also provides a way to learn about available opportunities, funding or simply getting a chance to learn new experiences.  

“Connect with one another, talk to each other, use opportunities like the SEWF Youth Forum and work with national networks, I know how valuable they are. Sometimes you don’t know what opportunities are out there”. – Gerlinde Schmidt, Euclid Network (Netherlands) 

The Youth Forum showcased a plethora of dedicated and inspiring work that young people do every day to make our world a better place. It also highlighted the importance of having an opportunity to connect, learn from each other and find out we do not work in a vacuum ⏤ there are like-minded people around. This need for connection was echoed across several sessions and in many speakers’ advice. We are very proud to be able to provide such a platform, in the form of the SEWF Youth Forum, for young people to attend for free as we work to support and strengthen the global social enterprise movement. As we look forward to our next events for the year including the Policy Forum (24 May) and SEWF23 Week (9-13 October), we thank our 2023 Co-hosts, Amsterdam Impact and Social NL as well as our global partners, sponsors and community. 

Also read:  Social Enterprise Opportunities - March: Unlock your potential